Nadal, Federer move up; Wawrinka beats Tsitsipas in 5 set thriller

Nadal, Federer move up; Wawrinka beats Tsitsipas in 5 set thriller

Nadal, Federer move up; Wawrinka beats Tsitsipas in 5 set thriller

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S.Rajesh *


Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer moved one step closer to a possible semifinal showdown as both players registered identical straight set wins on Sunday to advance to the French Open quarterfinals. Nadal beat Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 while Federer also overcame Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka outlasted sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five set thriller that lasted five hours and nine minutes.

Wawrinka and Tsitsipas were meeting for the first time and it proved to be an epic five set battle that had the crowd engaged with the long rallies, the diving volley attempts from Tsitsipas and the clash of styles between the net rushing Tsitsipas against the powerful baseline passing shots from the Swiss player. Despite their age difference of 14 years, they were locked in a rollercoaster that edged one way to the other. Wawrinka took the first set on the tie break but Tsitsipas broke early in the second set to lead 3-0. Wawrinka fought back to level the set but Tsitsipas stayed tough to take the second set 7-5. They shared the next two sets to send the match into a decider. There Tsitsipas was the one to put pressure on Wawrinka’s serve but was unable to put the finishing touch as Wawrinka was able to stave off the break points with some terrific passing shots and a few errors from the young Greek himself.

When Wawrinka got his chance for the break at 7-6, it proved to be a crucial one as it came in the form of double match point as he served first. Tsitsipas saved one and attacked the net on the second one as well. But he made an error of judgement leaving the backhand pass from Wawrinka and it curled in and dropped on the line to hand the win to Wawrinka. The umpire had to come down to verify the mark and ruled in favour of the Swiss. Wawrinka had saved 8/8 breakpoints in the final set and 22/27 in the match and that proved to be the difference between the two. Tsitsipas in fact won one more point in the match- 195 to Wawrinka’s 194. There were 62 winners from Wawrinka to 61 winners for Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas was understandably disappointed after his loss. “I feel exhausted. Never experienced something like this in my life. I feel very disappointed at the end. Long time since I cried after a match, so emotionally wasn’t easy to handle. I will try to learn from it as much as I can.”

For Wawrinka this win represented a special moment. “That’s the kind of emotion I was practicing to have back, for sure. Playing in front of such a crowd, such a big atmosphere, five-set match in a Grand Slam, that’s the reason why I came back from the surgery in the first [place]. It’s because I love and enjoy to play in front of people, to play in the biggest tournaments you can play. Today was something really special.”

One day short of his 33rd birthday, Nadal made a quick start to break Londero for 2-0 but the Argentine 25 year old who was playing his debut Grand Slam settled down to hit some big forehands and compete with the 11 time champion forcing him to save three break points in the fourth game. The Spanish second seed held and broke again to take the opening set 6-2. In the second set Londero stayed level till 2-2 before Nadal broke to lead 4-2 and there were some entertaining rallies as Londero was able to push Nadal to long rallies and even got the better of the Spaniard in a few. But Nadal won the big points and appeared set for a comfortable win when he closed out the second set and broke twice to lead 4-1 in the third set.

That was when Londero went on a purple patch breaking Nadal’s serve and holding his own at love. He won 10 points in a row and had Nadal in trouble at 0-30 but the Spaniard dug deep coming up with some fine serves and deep forehands to hold serve. In the very next game, Nadal raised two match points and then slammed an inside out forehand winner to complete the win in two hours and 13 minutes.

Federer has been having an easy time on his return to Paris after four years and it continued to be so as the 37 year old reached a record 54th quarterfinal and his 12th at the French Open as he cruised to a straight set win over Mayer who he led 3-0 in previous meetings. In windy conditions, Mayer never found his touch as Federer was able to keep the ball low with slices and that kept the Argentine player off his balance and he never threatened as he lost the first two sets 6-2, 6-3. In the third set, he briefly conjured up hopes of a fight saving a few break points but the Swiss third seed quickly doused his aspirations by breaking and coasting to a straight set win in just an hour and 42 minutes.

Sloane Stephens was facing former champion Garbine Muguruza in a fourth round matchup between Grand Slam champions. The Spaniard was quick to the blocks breaking Stephens and leading 2-0. But Stephens eventually reeled in the 19th seed to get back to 4-4 and then. She will face 26th seed Johann Konta who beat 23rd seed Donna Vekic 6-2, 6-4. The other quarterfinal in the bottom half will pit 31st seed Petra Martic against unseeded Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova. Martic beat Kaia Kanepi in three sets while Vondrousova got the better of 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 6-0.

In a third round doubles match, Rohan Bopanna and Marius Copil lost to the Serbian duo of Janko Tipsarevic and Dusan Lajovic in a very tight match that ended in a third set tie breaker 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(8).

Senthil Trinitymirror

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